Magic Burns
by Ilona Andrews
272pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.23/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.27/5

Magic Burns is the second book in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, who is actually a married couple instead of one writer. The books in this urban fantasy series are in order as follows: Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes and Magic Bleeds, which was just released at the end of May (fortunately, because this series is very addictive around the time Magic Strikes begins). There is also a related novella about Kate’s friend Andrea in the Must Love Hellhounds anthology called Magic Mourns, which takes place between the third and fourth books.

Note: The plot description may not make a whole lot of sense if you haven’t read the first book and are unfamiliar with some of the different organizations.

It’s actually somewhat of a relief when Kate is awakened by her phone at 2:00 AM: it’s Jim asking her to team up on a mercenary job and she could use the money. The two then proceed to hunt down a psycho intent on setting as much of the city on fire as possible. Although it’s preferable to capture the culprit alive, he ends up dead but not because of Kate or Jim – a crossbow bolt came out of nowhere and killed the pyromaniac as soon as they caught up with him. The marksman is gone, and Jim is summoned to deal with Pack business, leaving Kate to deal with getting the dead body back on her own.

Later Kate is visited by Derek, her werewolf friend from the Pack, enlisting her aid in finding the very same man with the crossbow who disappeared. After Jim left, he was shot by the same type of bolt and several of the Pack’s maps were stolen by the shooter, who then vanished into thin air. As part of the Order, Kate has contacts the Pack doesn’t and they’d prefer if it wasn’t known that they were searching for their missing property. Kate’s search leads her to a teenage girl whose mother disappeared with her coven of witches… making Kate wonder just what kind of forces they awakened during a time when magic power is at its strongest.

Although I liked the first book once the first half was over and it got to the better-paced second half, Magic Burns is a definite improvement. It grabbed my attention much earlier and the plot is more solid than in the first book, which had a lot of wandering around trying to solve a mystery involving the death of Kate’s guardian. There were a lot of scenes that felt like they were solely serving as an introduction to the various characters in the first book, and even though this novel introduced more new characters, their appearances flowed with the rest of the story much better instead of feeling somewhat stilted. This book’s mystery also unfolded more naturally instead of seeming like Kate was just going to one place then another place trying to gather information.

After reading the first book and becoming acquainted with the world, it is also much less confusing. The series is set in the year 2040 in an alternate earth with magic and mythology come to life (this particular book weaves a lot of Celtic myth into the story). Magic and technology alternate in waves – warding spells fail once the magic ebbs and technological devices no longer work when the magic waves hit. Magic Burns also explains more about when and why this happened, and it deals with one of the magic flares that occur every seven years (resulting in much stronger than usual magic). It’s a very interesting idea for a universe and makes for enjoyable reading, although I still can’t quite wrap my mind around why an influx of magic would cause guns to cease to work. Perhaps I’m just thinking about it too much since it is after all magic, but why would the mechanics of a gun cease to work but not a crossbow? Why would a sword or crossbow no longer be counted as technology just because they’re not more advanced weaponry? Don’t they follow the same basic laws of physics? Since this does mean the setting is so innovative and fun to read about, I try not to let myself get too hung up on the details or wonder just what I’m missing about how this works, though.

Although there are some similarities to other urban fantasy books, this conflict between magic and technology and the way the supernatural is handled sets it apart. There are vampires but they are not sparkly or handsome. They’re beasts that will just kill everything if their minds are not controlled by a necromancer. Werewolves exist as well, but there are also many other types of shapeshifters that comprise the pack such as jaguars, minxes, rats, bears, and hyenas. Learning more about the People (the cult/research facility that has a lot of vampires) and the Pack is another bonus to reading this novel.

The characterization is also much better than in the previous book and Kate herself is much more likable, which is good since she is the first person narrator of the story. She can still have a smart mouth, but I rather like that she’s also very blunt and straightforward unless she has a good reason not to be. Also, she also seems to be letting go a little more and letting readers in on more of her thoughts than in the previous book. As more of Kate’s secrets are slowly revealed, it really gives a sense of why she acts like such a tough girl sometimes and really works with her character. In addition, there are a couple of new relationships that make her seem much more soft-hearted. Early in the story, Kate takes responsibility for the teenage girl Julie but she’s more than a duty to Kate as she comes to really care for the child and is very protective of her. Another aspect that makes Kate seem to have more sympathetic is the start of her relationship with Andrea, a knight of the Order.

In addition to Kate, there are many other intriguing characters and she has some memorable conversations so many of them – of course, the aforementioned Julie and Andrea as well as some familiar faces from the first book, mainly Curran and Saiman. Curran and Kate still get on each other’s nerves but there’s potential for romance, and Saiman goes a bit nutty with the magic flare approaching, which made me even more curious about his magical abilities. All the other shapeshifters have human and animal forms, but Saiman can morph himself into any human form he’d like. The appearance of Derek, the teenage werewolf from the first book, was also quite welcome. There is not a single character I did not enjoy reading about – even Ghastek, one of the necromancers who Kate is not all that fond of.

The plot did seem to move a little too swiftly at times and crammed in a lot for a short book and sometimes the transitions felt a bit disconnected. Overall, it was much better than the first book, which moved too slowly at times, but this one did have some cases of too much happening too fast.

Magic Burns is much stronger than the first installment in every way – the plot is better although it is still weaker when compared to the world-building and character development, the novel is better paced, Kate is more sympathetic and there are some very memorable scenes between characters.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Read Excerpt

Reviews of other books in this series:

Other Reviews:

This is the really final post on Book Expo America (BEA) and the Book Blogger Convention (BBC). I need to start writing all these reviews of the Kate Daniels books because these are ones I really want to talk about (so much that I will most likely also write a separate series review after the individual book reviews – I finished Magic Bleeds last night and so desperately want more).

After writing about what occurred at BEA and BBC, I just wanted to write something more personal on the week. The rundown on what happened at the two events are in three posts:

The highlight for me was definitely meeting so many people I have talked to online. Waiting in line was so much more fun when there were other people to talk to and you could do things like argue over whether or not you should ever read the end of the book first (no, you should not!). Plus it was just so much fun to be able to discuss some of your mutual favorite books in person. I met some awesome people while I was there:

The people I met definitely made it worthwhile because if not for that, I would have probably wished I had saved my money to go to an actual speculative fiction convention like Readercon (whose guests include Elizabeth Bear, N. K. Jemisin and Catherynne Valente – who was at BEA but not signing, and yes, I’ve seen her before, but she was awesome, so I don’t care). There are two reasons for this:

1. Not enough speculative fiction books

Book Expo America had lots of books, but I was disappointed in the lack of speculative fiction that was not young adult. Young adult was everywhere and I ended up with nearly twice as many young adult books as fantasy and science fiction. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading young adult – authors such as Kristin Cashore, Laini Taylor and Megan Whalen Turner are some of my more recent favorite discoveries. And the YA books I got at BEA look pretty good, too. I just would have liked to have seen more just plain old speculative fiction, though, so I could at least even out the ratio of YA to non-YA books.

2. Not enough authors I’d read

This may be at least partially related to the above as well as not being the most voracious reader in the world, but I was really hoping to be able to get a book signed by an author I’ve admired. Once the schedule was released in April, I looked over it eagerly to see who would be there and found two authors I’d read – and I didn’t enjoy either one of their books. They were books I actually disliked, not even just ones I just lacked enthusiasm for. So I was sad. A small number of the authors were on my TBR so I picked up a book by one of them I expected to enjoy – Poison Study by Maria Snyder. I did indeed enjoy it and was hoping to get a copy of Inside Out but guess which line at BEA was the most disorganized long mess of crazy I saw the whole time? Yes, that one. Maria Snyder was signing one other book, but I opted for the Deanna Raybourn signing instead since Snyder’s other book was a few books into a series I haven’t read. Oh well, I am sure I will discover some new authors with the books I did got and will be happy I have pretty signed copies once I read them.

Of course, Readercon also does not have a Book Blogger Convention, which was very well organized and also fun. I did come away from it feeling like I hadn’t learned anything new, but it was interesting to listen to the different discussions and viewpoints (although it did seem as if most people in the panels tended to agree with each other – the only major difference of opinion I can remember is the stats argument). Overall, I found it enjoyable and was glad I had the opportunity to attend, though.

Now I will return to reviewing – next up will be a review of Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews followed by Servant of a Dark God by John Brown. The next three books in the review queue are Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews and Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews. (So I had a bit of an Ilona Andrews kick and just might have to read The Edge and Silent Blade sooner rather than later.)

The day after Book Expo America was of course the first Book Blogger Convention. I usually try to avoid talking about blogging too much here so I don’t bore those of you who aren’t bloggers, but this is one thing I would like to discuss as there may be people who are curious about going next year.

It started with registration and breakfast (yes, coffee!!!) and then we all headed into the main room to listen to the keynote speaker, YA author Maureen Johnson, who amused us all with stories about attending a Catholic high school and explaining the plot of one’s book to someone who really just isn’t all that interested in it in the middle of a busy bookstore. (We each also got the audio version of her book Suite Scarlett as part of our Book Blogger Convention swag.)

Next we listened to a more serious talk on Professionalism and Ethics given by Ron Howard. The talk is available on his website. He discussed topics such as why he says that book bloggers won the war between critics and bloggers, different standards of ethics and how to be trustworthy, and the FTC Guidelines that caused quite a stir a while ago. I won’t go into it too much since if you’re really interested, you can watch it and read more about it on the website.

After these two talks and question/answer sessions for each, there were panels in which different bloggers discussed a topic. The first of these, Writing and Building Content, made me feel very disorganized. They were talking about keeping notes on each book read, creating posts ahead of time, coming up with ideas for new features and making sure they had other content such as press releases for days when they couldn’t write much.

As much as this one overwhelmed me, it did make me decide that after I start a new book, I may try note taking to see how it works. Lately I just haven’t had as much spare time as previous years and keep getting behind on reviews, and then I end up practically rereading some of the books I already read in order to refresh my memory to write about them. It really made me wish I was one of those people with a detailed blogging calendar. I keep thinking it’s not possible since blogging is something I do in my spare time after the full time job and how much time I have for it varies, but that’s the way it works for most bloggers so maybe I’m really not as organized as I could be.

The next topic was Marketing – things like using Twitter, Facebook and other social media to grow your blog and commenting on other posts to get your name out there and make friends. Toward the end the conversation turned to stats – most people thought quality and generating discussion through comments was more important than the number of visits.

Blogging with Social Responsibility showed how bloggers can make a difference, such as during a couple of the recent instances of “whitewashing” covers (depicting white people on the cover when the main character is a person of color). Recently, there were a couple of instances where this happened and due to the public outrage, the cover art was changed to present a more fitting portrayal of the character (Liar by Justine Larbalestier and Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore).

The final panel was on Author/Blogger relationships. I was fairly surprised by the fact that some people will not put up a negative review of a book by an author they’ve become friendly with. It is difficult to do so I understand it; there have been occasions before in which I’ve emailed with an author, thought they were so nice and really wanted to be able to say I liked their book – and have been very sad to find I just can’t say that. But even if it’s not the most positive review in the world, I’ve seen other people comment on some of these reviews on various blogs and say it sounds like it is their type of book even if not to the reviewer’s taste – and they may never have even heard of the book if not for that review, even if it is not a glowing recommendation.

Oh yes and we also had a break for lunch with actual food which was fantastic after living on coffee and chips or coffee and cake during busy Book Expo America!

Next up: One more post on the trip – thoughts about BEA instead of just what I did while there and then back to books, I promise! I actually have two review drafts at the moment that just need to be proofread and edited and should be close to ready to go.

On the reviewing front, I’ve finished a draft of Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews so I’m hoping to get that up next week, perhaps with the other review I’ve begun (Servant of a Dark God by John Brown). There are two more to write after that one, including Magic Strikes. I’m also nearly halfway through Magic Bleeds so I should be reviewing all the books in the Kate Daniels series in the near future.

This week I got one book. I was ordering a birthday present for my husband and needed to order something else if I wanted free shipping so of course I had to add something from my wish list…

Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

This romantic science fiction book just came out in May, but I’ve had my eye on it for months. Linnea Sinclair made a comment on Goodreads about it being similar to Ann Aguirre’s books so that caused me to immediately add it to my wish list. Robin Hobb also said it blended plot/action with well-rounded characters – sounds good to me!

The best cypherteck in the galaxy, Edie can reinvent planets with little more than a thought. Trained since childhood in advanced biocyph seed technology by the all-powerful Crib empire, her mission is to terraform alien worlds while her masters bleed the outlawed Fringe populations dry. When renegade mercenaries kidnap Edie, she’s not entirely sure it’s a bad thing… until they leash her to a bodyguard, Finn—a former freedom fighter-turned-slave, beaten down but never broken. If Edie strays from Finn’s side, he dies. If she doesn’t cooperate, the pirates will kill them both.

But Edie’s abilities far surpass anything her enemies imagine. And now, with Finn her only ally as the merciless Crib closes in, she’ll have to prove it or die on the site of her only failure… a world called Scarabaeus.

In my Day One recap, I had said I suspected this post would be short (ha! I should know myself better than that by now) so I was going to write about a few other things. It appears I lied, so this will just be about day two and I’ll discuss more about what I actually thought about it in a different post.

The morning of the second day at Book Expo America was another flurry of signings, although it was a bit rougher since I started the day much more exhausted than day one. The highlight was Deanna Raybourn – I haven’t read her books yet but I keep hearing about them and she was just so friendly and nice and talked to everyone while signing their books.

Around 11:00 there wasn’t much going on so I got a coffee cake and vanilla latte over at Starbucks (fortunately, the line was a bit more manageable than earlier – I got my tired self over there first thing when I got in but the line was as long as the one for some of the signings). I found a place to sit and read for a bit but was too wiped out to concentrate that well. And it’s not like I wasn’t reading a really good book because I was reading Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews, which was nothing short of awesome from beginning to end (so much so that I’m already reading Magic Bleeds).

Before hitting the afternoon signings, I decided to head over to the Orbit booth since they not only send me a lot of review copies but tend to be pretty good about randomly sending me books that I’m actually very interested in reading (and make me wish I could read faster). Plus I was curious about what they had coming out. While I was over there, the woman at the booth was very apologetic about not knowing much since she was “just the cover designer.” Just the cover designer?! She was Lauren Panepinto, who designs some fantastic covers – I’ve looked through the list she has on Goodreads before (which includes The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, The Parasol Protectorates books by Gail Carriger, The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee and the new covers for Jo Graham’s books). They had copies of Married with Zombies, which Lauren Panepinto described to me as zombie chick lit, and I was drooling over the poster for Surface Detail, the Culture novel by Iain M. Banks that is coming out in October.

Then it was back to the signing rush, which is all a blur other than wandering around for a while trying to find the one for Jeri Smith-Ready‘s book Shade. I thought I wasn’t going to find it and then once I did the line was deceptive – it looked short but was actually quite long since it wrapped around the corner. But I got my book and Jeri Smith-Ready was also very friendly, even by the time she’d gotten to the end of the line.

After that, I spent some time at the very packed Book Blogger Convention reception. Janice from Janicu’s Book Blog and I were looking for something to do between that and the evening’s party hosted by The Book Smugglers, so we decided to take a cab over to the area of the party and find a coffee shop. Half an hour later we FINALLY got a cab and then the driver tried to tell us it was too hard to get to where we wanted to go! So we were going to have him drop us off at the nearest subway but then he’d changed his mind and decided it was fine. We were at least happy to find a Barnes and Noble with a Starbucks right there, although we made sure to let the man at the door know we came in with books – the last thing we needed was to be arrested for book theft after all that! It was fun to just hang out, not lug around books and chat about books with Janice for a while. She’s another great book blogger I’m really glad I met.

The party was a good time, although very loud. The most fun I had there was conversing/yelling about The Queen of Attolia with Angie from Angieville. She is one of the people who convinced me to read this series, and I’m grateful she did since this book was fantastic. And it was wonderful to be able to talk to someone about it without worrying about spoilers.

Next up: Book Blogger Convention report (unless I finish the Magic Burns review first – I have been working on that this week too!).

Of course, as any bibliophile will tell you, being able to get so many books at Book Expo America (BEA) is great (especially the signed books – I am such a sucker for those!). But I’ve already talked about during my weekly book update posts so now it’s time to talk more about the experience (although I will include any interesting book-related news just in case you missed it in the other posts).

Due to technical difficulties with my husband’s camera (ok, a wrong setting but I swear I tried that one multiple times), I do not have pictures so I’m afraid this will just be lots of babbling without any photos to break up the monotony. However, a lot of other people got pictures so I will direct you to the blogs of some awesome people I met who have plenty of them.

So after finally figuring out how to get a ticket for the LIRR and then going the wrong way once I got off, I found the Javitz Center. Not that long after getting my press pass, I met Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers at the Tor booth (or, er, Macmillan since Tor didn’t really have its own section in spite of being one of the more present speculative fiction publishers as far as having books available in the signings went). Their blog is one of my favorites so this was exciting, and they were both so much fun.

We made sure to get there early for the signing of Felix Gilman‘s forthcoming novel, The Half-Made World, and were so close to the front that we also had a chance to go back to Macmillan and get signed copies of Passion Play by Beth Bernobich. I had been agonizing over not getting this one because both it and The Half-Made World looked so good and were at the same time so this made me very happy. After looking at the book, I think this is the one I am most looking forward to reading. When I got my book signed, I asked if it was the start of a series and was told it is the first novel in a trilogy and there is also supposed to be a related book and a short story. It just looks so good from the description, and yes, I admit the fact that the cover is striking doesn’t hurt either. Plus Ana and Thea found out the day before at a tour of Tor that Bernobich’s editor was the same one who discovered Jacqueline Carey so that just moved it even higher up on the ‘must-read’ list.

Actually, October 2010 is looking pretty good for new releases since the three books I got that I am most looking forward to all come out then – Passion Play by Beth Bernobich, Dreadnought by Cherie Priest and The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman.

After some signings, we caught part of the Dystopian Fiction panel featuring authors Ally Condie (Matched), Adam Dunn (Rivers of Gold), Lesley Hague (Nomansland), and Sigrid Nunez, (Salvation City). There was an interesting discussion about whether or not there should be a glimmer of hope in dystopian novels. Afterward, I got to meet Angie from Angieville who runs another one of my favorite blogs ever and was a lot of fun to talk to.

Most of the rest of the day was dedicated to signings – there were so many to get to and unfortunately I missed the steampunk panel with Cherie Priest and Catherynne Valente.

I had been so disappointed that were not going to be any authors at BEA that I had read and enjoyed. There were two I had read, but I didn’t actually like the book I read by either of them, not even in a “it’s ok” sort of way – I actually wanted to go back in time so I could read something better in place of these two books. So I made sure to read a book by one of the authors who was going to be there that I thought I’d like – Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. I did enjoy it and really wanted to get a copy of Inside Out, but the scariest, craziest line I saw the whole time I was at BEA was for this signing so after all that I missed it!

The most fun autographing session had to be for Zombies vs. Unicorns, a young adult anthology edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. It stemmed from an argument between the two editors about which of the two was better, and they were asking everyone if they preferred zombies or unicorns. Before I even got a chance to answer, each of them said I must be on her side. Not being a zombie fan (gore, ick) but having been a little girl who adored unicorns as well as a big fan of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, I had to side with Holly Black on that one. To which she exclaimed “YES!” and Justine Larbalestier asked me if I was sure since I was wearing black. They were quite funny and I’m looking forward to reading the book more after talking to them (even if I am a tad disappointed that it sounds as though there will be no unicorns waging war on a zombie horde).

On the first day of BEA, I also met Kenda of Lurv a la Mode, who had the prettiest bookmarks. She writes great reviews and her blog is one of my go-to blogs now too so it was very nice to get to meet her.

Those are the highlights of day one at Book Expo America. Next I’ll write about day two, which should be shorter since I ended up crashing from exhaustion with some coffee and a book in the middle of the day, as well as some general impressions about the event.